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Dreaming: An Unframed State

aybala50's picture





                                                  Graphic novels


Literary bases online


the way we see the world, our vision


…all framed in a way that effect the way we perceive our surroundings. Graphic novels such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis have obvious frames. The gutters between the frames in a graphic novel create a ‘pause’ between images and the words, and in turn in our perception. In Satrapi’s graphic novel the gutters have a meaning. They are meant to represent the ‘in-between the line’ state, as it is seen on the first page of the first chapter. The heading ‘The Veil’ is accompanied by an eye that is directly above the first gutter. 



To me this symbolizes the significance of the gutter. Satrapi could be telling the readers of the graphic novel to read between the lines of what she is portraying with the images and words throughout the read. With her graphic novel, Satrapi has created frames smaller and more frequent than exists in a book without such literal frames surrounding the text. In a similar way, however, texts that are online such as the stories of the Thousand and One Arabian Nights are framed as well. However, rather than gutters that are visible between the text the frame is created by the constant clicking in order to advance to the next page. The breaks within the text are not as visible, but they are there and they have boundaries.

           Every time I read a book, a physical book with the pages bound together, there’s a short pause while I turn a page. A pause, a break, something in between two pages that create a moment of nothing. A time for my mind to rest maybe? Or to think further… A book in itself is so symbolic of the boundaries that are created by the frames that seem to exist in all of these works. 

The physical binding of the pages, the feeling of looking at a book from cover to cover, it’s as if the text in the book is trapped, or it belongs within the covers and no-where else. I enter the book by crossing a boundary, just as if I were crossing a boundary by stepping over a literal line. I enter a world framed by the author, a break after every page. I finally exit the creation by crossing the boundary at the end. 

I’m watching a movie and it all seems so real. The characters, the setting, as if
I am there seeing it through my own eyes. I follow the movement of the camera as it
shows me all there is, or at least it feels like it. Does a stream of a movie show more than
a picture in a graphic novel? The making of a movie involves strips of film attached to
each other in order to create the movement in movies. However, though the final
product is moving, just as the graphic novel, the filmstrips have gutters between
each frame. Even while I watch a movie, if I pay attention, there are moments
of emptiness, of a plain black screen. 



Then I move into my reality, my eyes, my vision, and my literal perception of my surroundings. I blink









then I’m back. I can see again, but is what just happened to me any different than the momentary blankness in a movie, or the gutter in a graphic novel, or the turning of a page of a book? A blink of an eye and I can miss something in life.

            What about dreaming? My eyes are closed and my brain is open enough for my unconscious to come out. The deepest, darkest thoughts and feelings I have are coming out and appearing in my mind. I’m not even completely aware of the existence of these visions. Memories that I have forgotten, fears that I am not aware of, desires that are concealed, unconscious habits and more… They are in my dreams, in the part of my mind that my awakened state doesn’t perceive. It’s a different level of perception, one without gutters, maybe? Or without borders?

            Boundaries create a moment of emptiness, a moment of time or place that takes a break from what is being perceived. Instead a full blown gathering of information, its little snippets, bit’s and pieces of a surrounding world, a text, a series of pictures. Not the entirety of something. In dreams, the brain, the mind, the vision open up and boundaries disappear. Could be the reason why so much more of the unconscious is represented in the sleeping dream, rather than in the awakened state. 


Anne Dalke's picture


What I'm liking first about this project is its making visible that which we never notice: the "frames" in our reading of texts that don't call attention to themselves as explicitly as the "gutters" in a graphic narrative like Satrapi's. Your thinking here is reminded me that, at the English Institute conference on Genre, which Nicole Gervasio and I attended @ Harvard last fall, we heard a talk by Craig Dworkin, entitled "The Generosity of Kindness," which called attention to the material form of prose--printed in lines, filling the pages which operate like "geometric containers" for the words, containers that we might profitably "look AT, not through." You write quite poetically  about this construction: "it’s as if the text in the book is trapped, or it belongs within the covers and no-where else. I enter the book by crossing a boundary, just as if I were crossing a boundary by stepping over a literal line."

What's even more exciting about this project, though, is the way--having crossed the boundary that is the book's cover--it moves on to look @ film as a sequence of frames, and the gutters dividing them, that move so quickly we can't see them; not to mention our constant "blinking" in reality, dividing up the world, filtering out what William James called its "buzzing, blooming confusion."

But what is most provocative here is your ending, with its thought experiment that what distinguishes dreams is their absence of borders....I'd like to think about that idea some more with you. On the one hand, I get it: what we dream is not bounded by what can occur in the material world. It's all thought experiment, all association. But I think I could posit, and defend, the reverse claim: that dreams are dreams precisely because they are bounded. Because we know they take place only in our minds, not in the material world which the rest of our bodies occupy.

It probably really is time for you to be watching "Waking Life."
And taking it seriously.

aybala50's picture


Ok, I haven't watched "Walking Life" yet, but I will watch it.


I am, however, interested that you think "dreams are dreams precisely because they are bounded. Because we know that they take place only in our minds, not in the material world which the rest of our bodies occupy." To me it seems like saying this really constraints the dreams and the happenings as well as the emotions involved with them within our minds. I suppose I don't quite understand what you mean? Are you arguing that the dream world cannot escape into the real world? There's no in-between? That when we dream our unconscious comes out because, maybe it's a safe space, since it is constrained in a mind? Something that might be a part of my unconscious will not come out while I am awake, but will come out while I am dreaming precisely because it can't escape where it is trapped?


I feel like the unconscious comes out in one of the most dangerous places possible: the mind? And it also seems terrifying that after it is realized, it is trapped.



Anne Dalke's picture

crossing the boundary between dreaming and waking life

I actually meant something much simpler: that (except for the very interesting exception of lucid dreaming) we don't actually know we are dreaming until we wake up...when realize (sometimes w/ pleasure, sometimes w/ disappointment) that we've crossed a boundary, the frame that separates waking from sleeping life.